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Taliban suicide squad targets Afghan government compound

Militants disguised in police uniforms attack a government compound in Afghanistan, sparking battles that kill a provincial council member and three policemen.

KABUL // Taliban suicide attackers disguised in police uniforms targeted a government compound today in southwestern Afghanistan, sparking battles that killed a provincial council member and three policemen. Nine attackers also died. The Taliban said it carried out the attack because the council was trying to turn Afghans against the militants. The council was meeting in a compound in Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz province in southwestern Afghanistan along the Iranian border.

Militants have conducted a string of coordinated suicide assaults on Afghan government compounds across the country. Some insurgents fled into Nimroz province earlier this year when international and Afghan troops conducted an offensive to rout the Taliban from neighbouring Helmand province. Nimroz is also a major trafficking route for Afghanistan's huge opium trade. The assault began when nine suicide bombers wearing Afghan National Police uniforms tried to access the provincial governor's compound, where the Nimroz council was meeting, said provincial police chief Gen Abdul Jabar Pardeli. But police became suspicious and fired on them, detonating several of the bombers' explosives.

The battle started during the council meeting and lasted more than an hour, according to provincial governor Gulam Dastagar Azad. A female council member, three Afghan policemen - who were guarding the compound - and nine Taliban insurgents were killed, he said. Ten police were wounded. One suicide attacker successfully detonated his bomb, Gen Pardeli said. He said police also found a car packed with explosives near the compound, which houses a court, the governor's offices and a guest house.

Gul Maki Wakhali, a female member of the Nimroz provincial council, was killed by crossfire, according to Sadeq Chakhansori, a member of the Afghan parliament who was in Nimroz for a meeting. "It was very heavy fighting. Very bad conditions," Mr Chakhansori said. "There was one-on-one fighting." The Taliban carried out the attack because the council was trying to persuade Afghans to turn against the insurgents, said spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi.

He said the council included "friends of Nato," and that "any friend of the enemy is an enemy." In other violence, the interior ministry reported three explosions today that targeted the vehicles of private development companies in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Zabul. The ministry said one person was killed and 11 were wounded in the blasts. Attacks on US contractors, construction companies and aid organisations have been rising as the international community pushes for faster development in Afghanistan as a priority in its strategy to counter the insurgency.

In western Herat province, flood waters coursed through several villages early this morning, killing at least 15 people and washing away homes, said Najibullah Najibi, a spokesman for the Afghan Army in western Afghanistan. * AP

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